Check your brand’s health…before it’s too late.
By: Joshua Cruce, PMP
The flu shot
How many times have you looked at your calendar, saw your annual flu-shot with the family doctor, and thought, “I’m busy, I feel fine…I’ll cancel?” You are not alone to consistently put off seeing the doctor until we wake up sick and rush to the clinic to get fixed. Typically, we’re a little late and as a result, are out of the office for days or weeks trying to get back on our feet. We ask ourselves, “why didn’t I just get that darn flu shot?”
Some marketing leaders treat their brands the same as their health. When sales are strong and everyone is happy, we tend to think the brand is fine, and are too busy to believe otherwise. That is until one day we see signs of a sick brand: off-strategy messaging, declining sales, and confused customers. Perhaps someone in the sales group realizes they can no longer verbalize how their brand is different from the competition. We rush to get it fixed, but sometimes it’s too late. The damage is done.
Brand Audit – the CMO’s flu shot.
Just like a flu shot, a brand needs regular check-ups to ensure the brand identity is strong and healthy. Here is marketing’s chance to get ahead of the symptoms before they cause lasting damage. This is where the brand audit comes in.
An audit is a powerful tool to capture a snapshot of the current brand condition.This audit is a detailed analysis of the brand, including:
- How the current brand looks and feels to your audience
- Have the demographics and needs of the market changed
- How all relevant stakeholders view the brand’s image
- Are the company’s mission, values, and objectives reflected in brand usage
- Does your brand strategy support business goals and objectives
An in-depth brand audit allows businesses to compare perception of their brand to where they believe the brand should be. Marketplace needs and desires are constantly evolving, and the brand audit allows leadership to keep up with changes, and predict the direction of change and adjust operations as needed.The audit will reveal the strengths of your brand and more importantly, reveal weaknesses. The best time to fix a problem is before anyone else know’s a problem exists.
Brand Audit: Proactive vs. Reactive
Everyone who goes to the doctor falls within two categories: Proactive or Reactive. Proactive people go to the doctor on scheduled intervals and any issues are diagnosed and corrected before they cause any serious symptoms. Reactive people find themselves pretty sick before seeing a doctor and generally suffer more long term issues due to procrastination. Brands are no different.
Let’s look at two international brands who performed brand audits, one proactive and one reactive, and the results.
Fedex, the shipping juggernaut was once the unassuming brand Federal Express. Federal Express launched in 1973 and soon became known as the leader in high priority shipping. Over the next 20 years, Federal Express grew from $1.05 per share to roughly $15.00 per share in 1993. The strong growth allowed many acquisitions and the future looked great. Instead of riding the high, CEO Fred Smith led a brand audit in 1994 and uncovered an opportunity to streamline and reinforce the brand as the fastest and most reliable shipping brand worldwide. In 1994,Federal Express was formally retired and Fedex was born. All of the subsidiaries were rebranded under the Fedex umbrella.
The Result: The reception to Fedex was historic. Today, Fedex is the undisputed leader in global priority shipping.
GAP, the classic American clothing company, is a great example of reactive brand maintenance. Gap was born in 1969, and saw steady growth for 25 years. GAP’s value skyrocketed in the mid 1990’s with the acquisition of Banana Republic and creation of Old Navy. By 1998, GAP’s management and shareholders focused on growth, without paying much attention to their brand health. Unfortunately for GAP, the high didn’t last long and in 1999-2000, the GAP stock was cut in half. Although stores were opening left and right, management did not know what their customers wanted and how they wanted it. In a desperate move to recover stock value, GAP rebranded as an upscale retailer right before Christmas in year 2000. The rush to rethink the business resulted in a sloppy and a customer unfriendly process.
The Result: The Christmas rebrand went down in history as what not to do to your brand. Public backlash was swift and harsh, and GAP was forced to retreat to their original logo. Stock continued to fall to almost a quarter of what it was a year prior.
Should you do your own Brand Audit?
When working on something so intimate as the company’s brand identity, some feel it is better handled in house. Although in house teams can uncover some insights, it is always better to have an independent third party lead the initiative. Just like your taxes, it is always better to have an outside professional ensure all bases are covered. Working with a professional firm offers many benefits, including:
On demand experts
With so much on the line, your brand requires the best of breed on demand to uncover the truths which drive your brand forward.
Independent, unbiased opinion
Brand audit by its nature raises questions that can disturb long ingrained customs and thinking. A professional outside firm can guide the process and ask the tough questions needed to get the real answers.
Neutralize the “silo” effect.
Most teams find cohesion is an amazing asset which drives everyone in the same direction. Most brands strive to build a culture founded on teamwork and cohesion. Unfortunately, this culture can become a roadblock to an honest brand audit. When their is a strong, cohesive company culture the risk of developing group-think and working in a silo is very high. An outside firm can identify these tendencies and help the team think outside of the box.
We live in an amazing time. brands have the capability of a global presence. However, today’s consumer requires instant gratification and often has the attention span of a goldfish. It is more crucial than ever to understand where your brand stands in the marketplace and what your customers want. Brand trust and preference is difficult to earn but the rewards are greater than ever.
Invest in your brands health, all you have to lose is a trip to the ER. Contact us today to discuss your brand and how we can help conduct a brand audit at www.bbgintegrated.com/contact